Viewpoint: Why I'm Choosing General Practice: Miriam Sanderson

The name 'general practitioner' frustrates me. All too often, 'general' is associated with non-specialised or boring. In reality, exactly the opposite is true.

Miriam Sanderson: 'GPs are both the backbone to the NHS and a key pillar in their community.'
Miriam Sanderson: 'GPs are both the backbone to the NHS and a key pillar in their community.'

The more I am exposed to the profession, the more I realise this. In just one morning, I saw a distressed ex-serviceman with suspected PTSD, talking about the devastating impact of this on him and his young son; a woman with a pituitary adenoma concerned about her thyroxine levels and an elderly lady who had been having absent seizures for 18 months. Sound routine? Average? Nothing could be further from the truth. The huge variety offered by general practice dwarfs that of other medical specialities. Whilst this can place pressure on GPs, it makes the career unique, interesting and worthwhile.

As a matter of fact, the diversity that general practice provides is not limited to clinical challenges. Becoming a GP offers vast diversity in terms of career direction. Got a passion for politics? The BMA needs you. Budding academic? Become a university lecturer.  Want to experience healthcare around the world? I know I certainly do. Having volunteered in a mission hospital in Zambia last summer, helping to further healthcare provisions in developing countries is something that I hope to be involved in throughout my career. With the broad scope of knowledge that general practice provides, in addition to flexibility and sociable working hours, becoming a GP is a great way to make a genuine improvement to primary care in developing countries. Importantly though, a career in the UK can still be maintained whilst pursuing your other goals.

Seeing the results of your intervention long-term is undeniably gratifying

Few medical professionals have as much contact with an individual as the GP. Understanding the patient’s background, thus being a true advocate for them and their whole wellbeing, is a privilege that few other specialities can boast. This ‘cradle to grave’ care means that GPs live with the consequences of their work. Nowhere was this more apparent to me than when a recently bereaved woman emotionally thanked her GP for all the time given to her. Merely hearing about how this helped the patient to cope made me realise how important the GP’s intervention had been. Being the person who helped to comfort the grieving woman, supporting her through this hard time, must have been rewarding. As self-indulgent as it may sound, seeing the results of your intervention long-term is an aspect of general practice that is undeniably gratifying.

Whilst being a GP might not be the most glamorous job that healthcare has to offer (I’m not holding my breath for Grey’s Anatomy to be replaced by a GP sitcom!) this speciality is so satisfying, extremely interesting and flexible. GPs are both the backbone to the NHS and a key pillar in their community. So, even if my one-woman-campaign to rename general practice doesn’t gain traction, this exciting career path is one I hope to take, even if that does mean putting up with the name of the speciality as is.

  • Miriam is studying at Nottingham University.

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